This year, for the first time, there were more women than men in our community’s delegation to Number 10; four to three. It’s more than just optics or how the photo looks. It’s what the meeting says about our community to this country.
It appears to say we are a community that allows women to reach the highest levels of leadership.
The Jewish community has always been full of remarkable women. But representation of women at the highest levels of the community has previously been found lacking. We hope that one day a female Union of Jewish Students (UJS) president and a gender-balanced meeting are not worthy of a headline.
Both of us have experienced double takes (and doubt) when we say our roles within UJS and other organisations. Without intentional intervention around attitudes, change will not come about.
In 2014, Ella was elected president of the UJS. The fourth woman in 90 years to hold that position and the first to pass presidency on to another woman.
Four years later, Hannah is the sixth. We are the first siblings to hold the role, of which we are both incredibly proud.
We look at the women around us in the community, who inspire us and who smash the glass ceiling for us. They have increased immensely in the past four years.
The Board of Deputies has welcomed its second female president in more than 250 years. The UJIA has its first woman chair, and other organisations appear to be following suit. Our community is not solely made of men and our leaders must reflect that.
The top tables are becoming more balanced and women are no longer just the junior roles in communal organisations.
Our community has always been a meritocracy. We must ask ourselves what we can do to balance the scales.
When women are not reaching the highest levels, we must ask why, and take practical steps to change that.
The work of the Women in Jewish Leadership project has paved much of the way, including some fantastic work on stopping all-male panels, but more can and must be done.
The UJS has done some brilliant work on this, ensuring that all national bodies such as National Council must be gender-balanced. Students often pave the way for broader change in wider society.
UJS was one of the first organisations to advocate for the two-state solution in the years preceding the Oslo Accords. This might be another one of those times.
The Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) has worked hard in the past year to ensure that this year’s delegation was gender balanced. With measures such as those taken by UJS and the JLC, maybe a gender-balanced community is closer than it appears.
Whether a true reflection or not, the yearly meeting has become an annual marker of women’s representation in our community.
Year on year, journalists have reported the lack of representation at the top table.
Hopefully this change carries on beyond the walls of Number 10.
- Ella Rose was president of the Union of Jewish Students from 2014-2015, while Hannah Rose is its current president
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